Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme

In the alps in eastern Victoria and Southern new South Wales are Hydroelectric plants with the most complex integrated water and hydro-electric schemes.The Scheme consists of sixteen major dams; seven power stations; two pumping stations; and 225 kilometers of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts that were constructed between 1949 and 1974. The Scheme was completed under the supervision of Chief Engineer, Sir William Hudson and is the largest engineering project undertaken in Australia.

Construction of the Snowy Scheme was managed by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, it officially began on 17 October 1949 and took 25 years, officially completed in 1974.

Tunneling records were set in the construction of the Scheme and it was completed on time and on budget in 1974, at a cost of A$820 million; a dollar value equivalent in 1999 and 2004 to A$6 billion. Around two thirds of the workforce employed in the construction of the scheme were immigrant workers, originating from over thirty countries. The official death toll of workers on the Scheme stands at 121 people.

The original plan was for 99% of the water of the Snowy River’s natural flow to be diverted by the Scheme below Lake Jindabyne. Releases from the Scheme were based on the needs of only riparian users and took no account of ecosystem needs; it soon became known that the lower reaches of the river were in environmental crisis. An extensive public campaign led to the Snowy Water Inquiry being established in January 1998.

The Snowy Scheme is a major tourist destination. Sightseeing driving tours to the key locations of the Scheme are popular out of regional centers like Cooma, Adaminaby and Jindabyne along roads built for the Scheme like the Snowy Mountains Highway and Alpine Way and towards sights like Cabramurra, as Australia’s highest town, spectacular dam walls, and scenic lakes.

Facts

  • The scheme was completed on time at a cost of $624,000,000.
  • he chief engineer, New Zealand-born William Hudson, was chosen to head the scheme as Chairman of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, and was instructed to seek workers from overseas.
  • The Scheme’s largest Dam is Talbingo Dam with an embankment volume of 14 488 000 m3 and a wall height of 161.5 meters. Khancoban Dam is the longest dam in the scheme with a crest length of 1,067 metres. A variety of dam and spillway types were used in the construction.